STATESMAN–a wise, skillful, and respected political leader//Link. The definition calls our attention to a need we have within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In a time when the SBC desperately needs someone that can articulate a position and respond with grace to one’s critics, all the while pointing us to a direction we need to move, we have such a one emerge.
Pastor Brad Whitt has eloquently responded to his latest round of vitriol that was sent his way. Pastor Whitt merely expressed his opinion and concerns about the direction some of our leaders were trying to take the SBC. In his original article, Pastor Whitt called for our leaders to cease marginalizing the young pastors who happened to cling tenaciously to the biblical doctrines of the SBC old paths. Pastor Whitt said that it seems the current leadership within the SBC were promoting and placing young pastors in leadership that were “weaned on non-Southern Baptist.” As a result of this first person article, Pastor Whitt received encouraging and discouraging responses. In Pastor Whitt’s latest response he expresses his thanks along with his resolve to continue standing up and speaking out.
Pastor Whitt, in his response, acknowledged that some criticized his position. This is where I say the next SBC Statesman may have emerged. Do you know who one of Pastor Whitt’s most harsh critics were? None other than the President of the South Carolina Baptist State Convention, Dr. Sonny Holmes. Pastor Whitt responded to very harsh words from his president by merely saying he was receiving criticism. What a Godly response when the president is a much older person and has been in ministry much longer than Pastor Whitt. I remember back in 1992, going to the convention in Atlanta, Ga, and being met in the hall by Brother Johnny Hunt. We were headed to the SEBTS Alumni luncheon and it was in that meeting that Brother Johnny nominated Dr. Sonny Holmes, in a substitute nomination to that of the then moderate led alumni association. Dr. Holmes used to pastor a church outside of Wake Forest known more for her moderate leanings than anything else but, under his leadership, were being led back to a belief in the Scriptures. Thus, I was very shocked when I read the letter from Dr. Holmes concerning a pastor in the very state he was elected President. Could it be that Dr. Holmes did not appreciate Pastor Whitt’s letter in 2006 concerning how entity chairpersons should respond in public? We do not know, but for a President of a state convention to publicly call out a pastor in that convention for merely expressing his opinion, is unprecedented. Dr. Holmes, failed to realize that Pastor Whitt neither named any person, nor did he put down anyone’s character. Pastor Whitt expressed his concern regarding facts that were on record. What did Pastor Whitt do after his president so bluntly and harshly expressed his opinion concerning the character of Pastor Whitt? Pastor Whitt publicly responded on a social network in such a way that Dr. Holmes, it is rumored, contacted Pastor Whitt to offer an apology. That is just a rumor but nothing has been seen publicly from Dr. Holmes concerning this issue.
Therefore, it seems that the statesman in this scenario would be Pastor Whitt. When Pastor Whitt was President of the South Carolina Pastor’s Conference he did not plan something that was old fogey and drab. It was an exhilarating conference that stirred the soul through Biblically centered preaching and heart warming, scriptural based music, that allowed an atmosphere for the Holy Spirit of God to be free to move among the pastors. Pastor Whitt was challenged by a pastor in South Carolina to seek speakers that were in the pit to place before pastors. Pastor Whitt delivered in a huge way.
Therefore, it seems that a question should be answered. Who is the true statesman in South Carolina and possibly in the SBC? Dr. Holmes with language like;
“Dr. Whitt criticized many very effective kingdom pastors and leaders, usually because they exist and serve outside his personal preference list….This kind of rhetoric threatens the very cooperation that he suggests as our model….To do so in such a venue, however, threatens our partnership and maligns the cause of Christ. Such self-serving polarization should be avoided”
Or, could it be that Pastor Whitt is the emerging Statesman the South Carolina Baptist State Convention and the SBC is in such desperate need of?